Monthly Archives: March 2015
Jenny Sealey met with the DWP on 30th March 2015. As you can see, she was less than impressed.
StopChanges2AtW have made it very clear that whoever is in government after the general election, we aren’t going away any time soon. Until we have the employment support that Deaf and disabled people need to be able to share their talent and skills and enrich our society, our campaign goes on.
We have now seen a few cases emerge where Deaf people who work in Deaf organisations are being told that they cannot get Access to Work support because if the organisation employed a non-disabled person they would still need an interpreter to work with their Deaf clients. They are saying that this isn’t an additional expense of employing a disabled person. This is known as “additionality”.
We are currently looking into the legalities of this.
Having experienced, “job redesign”, and “non-communication days”, we are now facing this new challenge to Deaf people gaining employment.
It has yet to be seen whether or not Access to Work will try to apply this rule to Deaf social workers or other government funded staff who work with the Deaf community. We will be watching closely.
If you have experienced this, or know anyone who has, please contact us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @emilysmith2007 #StopChanges2AtW.
21 March 2015
Statement of Support – Teresa Pearce MP
Read at the National Union for British Sign Language Interpreter (NUBSLI) national meeting.
“The purpose of the Access to Work (AtW) programme has always been to ensure that people are given the support they need in order to reach their full potential in the workplace. Unfortunately, the Government’s changes to the scheme have had a devastating impact on claimants. As both a local MP and a Member of the Work & Pensions Select Committee I am aware of cases where people have lost their jobs, struggled to get assistance, been subject to unexplained delays, and found their working days blighted by anxiety as the support on which they rely has been taken away from them. It is clear that the Government’s changes have made it harder for deaf and deafblind in the workplace. This is unacceptable.
Recent news that the Government plans to cap budgets from October 2015 demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the whole ethos underpinning the AtW programme. This comes on top of the Government’s previous misguided decision to implement an arbitrary “30 hour rule.” The needs of deaf and deafblind people are often rich and varied. They may need the support of a number of different communication professionals and interpreters to meet their different needs at different times. Yet, the restrictions imposed by the Government deny claimants the flexibility they need. I know of a number of instances where deaf and deafblind people have built up excellent working relationships with their communication support workers and interpreters, but these partnerships have been cut short by inexcusable delays and changes to the AtW programme that have left claimants without the necessary funds to be able to pay their interpreters. This is unacceptable.
I have been a strong supporter of the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign since it began, and I was pleased to be a part of the cross-party group of MPs reviewing the programme as a member of the Work & Pensions Select Committee. The Committee’s report, published in December 2014, rightly highlighted a number of concerns about the administration of the AtW programme and the Government’s changes. Whilst it was announced earlier this month that the “30 hour rule” will be removed from April 2015, the fact remains that, during its suspension, many people have struggled to source the interpreting support they need. The DWP must improve the manner in which it communicates decisions with claimants, and explain eligibility criteria in a way that can be easily understood. It is not right that people in need of this support are having to chase for answers that will affect their working lives. This must change.
More recently, the Government is failing to take heed of concerns raised by the interpreting community about the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS’s) proposed National Framework for Interpreting Services. Whilst Francis Maude claims the new framework will “provide users of British Sign Language translators with a high-quality and cost-effective service,” it seems it would only compromise the quality of support provision and seriously undermine professional standards. Given that deaf, deafblind people, and BSL interpreters have already suffered months of uncertainty following AtW changes, this must be reviewed urgently.
The AtW programme should be a source of celebration. The DWP should be able to roll it out as a great success story. Yet, to date, it is falling far short of fulfilling its purpose, which is to remove barriers and provide the employment support necessary to make the workplace accessible for all. The Government is failing to recognise the important contributions made by deaf, deafblind people and BSL interpreters in the workplace, and this cannot continue.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend NUBSLI and everyone here today for their relentless commitment to raising awareness of this issue and the injustices of the Government’s actions. I would also like to restate my support for the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign and the Scrap the Framework campaign. I will continue to speak out about these issues whenever I have the opportunity to do so.”
Letters have been made public between the Minister of Disabled People, Mark Harper and the Chair of the Work & Pensions Select Committee, Dame Anne Begg.
The letter highlights the governments failure to respond to the Work & Pensions Select Committee report and the recommendations made following the damning inquiry into the Access to Work scheme. It also criticises the caps being placed on Deaf and disabled people under the new proposals.
Read the correspondence below or via this link:
Our response to the announcement made by Minister for Disabled People, Mark Haper reported in Disability News Service. Read here:
Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People has today released a statement regarding Access to Work. The statement comes in response to the Work and Pensions Select committee report into Access to Work published on 19 December which made comprehensive recommendations to improve the programme and address changes which have had a devastating impact on deaf and disabled people’s ability to stay in employment. The statement also concludes an anxious eight month wait for the outcome of the Ministerial review into the ’30 hour rule’.
The contents of the statement are a mixed bag: whilst there are some areas which, if used correctly could be seen as positive, there are also areas of huge concern.
We would welcome measures to give greater flexibility over how customers use awards but there is too little detail in the statement to ascertain whether the proposed process of offering personal budgets will deliver improved outcomes. It is notable that another initiative announced in the statement, to pilot contracted transport services for customers across the largest towns and cities which will in effect remove choice. The statement also mentions raising the profile of Access to Work’s Mental Health Support Service whereas the biggest improvement in this area would be to recognise a range of different support options and address the numerous problems with the current service, with inappropriate referrals and its reliance upon a single therapeutic model.
The most concerning aspect of the statement is the introduction of capping awards from October 2015. The removal of the 30 hour rule and delay in implementing the cap until April 2018 for those currently with an award higher than this level provides welcome relief for those in immediate fear for their jobs. However, long term, this measure will remove employment choices and limit the ability of in particular Deaf BSL users to get into and progress in employment. In capping high cost support needs, the government will be discriminating against those who rely on certain types of support.
A second major area of concern is the framework being developed by the DWP working closely with the Crown Commercial Service. We are not aware of any consultation with Deaf BSL Users or interpreters on this. The #ScrapThe Framework campaign being led by the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) has highlighted the many problems with using a framework agreement for interpreting and translation in regards to the Deaf community. The framework, which in its current state is unworkable and will force many interpreters of the profession, threatens the quality and sustainability of interpreting services to Deaf people.
We welcome moves to improve the accessibility of contact with Access to Work including building on email channels and the intention of offering a Video Relay Service for BSL users later in 2015/16. However we would be concerned about over-reliance on digital solutions which could exclude disabled people with certain access needs and create extra barriers for those without online access, for example those applying for the first time who have been offered but not yet started in employment.
Although the statement outlines an ambition to increase the numbers of disabled people helped including people with hidden impairments including mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism, there is nothing to how this will be achieved. The direction of travel for Access to Work has been to increase emphasis on time limited interventions, technological solutions and tapering support. The statement gives no indication that this will be reversed and a new approach adopted based on an understanding of the need for ongoing support for some individuals from all impairment groups.
Overall, there is nothing in the statement to suggest any commitment to changing the culture that currently exists within the programme. The emphasis throughout is on cost. As the Work and Pensions Select Committee stated this should not be an issue. The government have failed to complete or publish any financial analysis of the scheme or even acknowledge the suggestion of the AME/DEL switch which would ensure an exponential growth.
Geraldine O’Halloran, Deaf BSL user and co-founder of the StopChanges2ATW campaign said: “The Deaf community is keen to promote Deaf professionalism on par with the hearing community, we want to see more Deaf people as Lawyers, Teachers, Researchers, Politicians on the same level as their hearing counterparts. Unfortunately the news that AtW budgets will be capped will have a detrimental effect on this ambition – how will we ever get there without the right the support we need. How long will we have to wait?“
Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London which has supported the campaign said: “The government’s statement issued today on Access to Work includes some welcome measures to improve the service including the introduction of personal budgets which will promote flexibility, choice and control. We are also pleased at the intention to offer more accessible procedures for contacting Access to Work, long called for by Deaf and disabled people. However, the statement also includes the news that ATW budgets will be capped. The effect of this will be to introduce a limit on how far Deaf BSL users can participate and progress in employment.”
Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts said: “Harper’s statement underlines the government’s failure to recognise the value of investing in employment support for Deaf and disabled people, something which has been proven to recoup money for the Treasury. The capping of Access to Work budgets represents a regression in employment rights, particularly of Deaf people and reflects a continued attack on BSL and standards of interpreting. It is further proof that the Disability Confident campaign is not about fulfilling potential but killing potential.”
Nicky Evans, Branch Secretary of the National Union for British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) said: “The national framework agreement cited in the statement is, in its current state, unworkable. It is set to decimate the BSL interpreting/translating profession. The consequences of will be profound and we expect to see a sharp decline in the quality of interpreting provision. It will not only affect AtW provision but Deaf people’s ability to access every area of society.”
Please see below the statement issued today by Mark Harper MP, Minister for Disabled People. We will be issuing a response to this soon.
To read the document on the Parliament website please click the link below: